Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Today's lunch pick: Pho Huong

I eat a lot of pho and one of my favourite places is Pho Huong, 394 Pacific Avenue, in The Junction. The broth has a depth of flavour that other bowls lack. It's fragrant and you can actually taste the cinnamon and star anise. Nothing is worse than when your pho tastes like dish water. 

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Playa Cabana Cantina

Playa Cabana Cantina, 2883 Dundas Street West is the most lively place to eat in The Junction. Neon lights, vintage signs and reclaimed wood adorn the space. Add the loud but not too loud meringue, pitchers of margaritas ($29) and you're ready for a fiesta. 

The menu is quite large and the kitchen is capable on most accounts. Their philosophy is Mexican cuisine does not have to be the calorie-laden, fat inducing cuisine you may think it is. 

Tortillas are handmade with corn (gluten free) and are the right texture. If they are too thin, they crumble. If too thick, the denseness of corn can be like lead. 

Yes, it's just a snack but Playa Cabana's guac is smooth and creamy and the chips are crisp without being oily. 

A bucket of shrimp ($16) in arbol garlic butter is unsurprisingly not a bucket but still a pound of finger licking goodness. 

The tostada with chicken tinga, refried beans, lettuce, guac and creama ($14) is crispy and fresh. The side rice is yellow yet bland.

Rob and Lindsey swear by the short rib tacos ($14/3). AAA Ontario beef is braised with ancho chilies then stuffed into crispy tacos with the usual fixings. 

Unfortunately, the "pizza style" nachos a la plancha ($9/add $4 for chorizo) are a total miss. Tortillas are topped with Oaxacan cheese, beans, creama and guajillo sauce. The chorizo is sliced instead of crumbled and seems more closely related to a hot dog than a sausage. The guajillo tastes like brown ketchup. The tortillas sog under the blanket of cheese. Our server said it was good; he lied. 

They used to bring in the churros but now make their own. What should be finger sized crispy, fried doughnuts covered in sugar and cinnamon are nuggets of under fried dough with a caramel center that does nothing to help their cause. 

Playa Cabana is more tex-mex than Mexican. The flavours are too muted and tame. It's lacking an authenticity to be considered real Mexican. But it's still a fun place to eat and the gringos are having a blast. 

Thursday, March 21, 2013


you dine out and order dishes that are good, that you enjoy in that moment but that disappear from your thoughts the moment they are consumed. And some, make lasting imprints on my palate and have me obsessed for months later.

These are my current restaurant obsessions:

The perfectly smooth and creamy deviled eggs topped with crisped blood pudding ($4) at The Grove. It's just eggs but these little darlings kind of stole my heart. I also love the mismatched China-like side plates; very British grandmum.

The steak tartar at Chantecler ($12) is so effing good, we ordered it twice. It changes but you can bet it's Asian influenced. Picture 'Vietnamese' style, chopped to order, then tossed with a vinaigrette made of fish sauce & lime juice, chopped peanuts, diced jalapeƱo, coriander stems and wasabi with a shiny raw egg yolk on top. I was there two months ago but can still remember the taste in my mouth.

Porzia is the latest addition to the Parkdale strip and I'm thrilled to see a new Italian restaurant; brava to Basilio Pesce for sticking to his roots. The bone marrow with snails ($13) is insanely good. Unctuous marrow with chewy, earthy snails is surprisingly a match made in heaven. I also love the Polish China dishes that come out of the kitchen. My Nonna had the same set and I'm a sucker for nostalgia.

Porzia is doing a 3 for $33 special (three items off their menu for $33) as well as half price bottles of wine on Monday nights.

You should go.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

"Why "Why haven't you written anything lately?"

This is a question that I, myself, am struggling with.

See, I started my blog four years ago. This was back when Toronto didn't have a lot of food bloggers. Sure, I wasn't the first. But the last few years have sparked such a food blogging/food porn phenomena that I now feel slightly disabled. As a server, I see every table taking pictures of their meals. As a food enthusiast, I'm inundated with reviews, critiques and posts containing so much rubbish that I've become somewhat embarrassed to be associated with the same group.
I started my blog with the hopes of simply being one's compass; spend your money here, avoid there.

We have become such an over saturated restaurant obsessed city that so much of what this city is doing is wrong and it's become ok. Dining out, for me, has become a real crap shoot; you've got a fifty fifty chance that you're going to get something memorable, something of value. Small portions, mediocre food, bad service are all making for sub par dining experiences. We excuse it because, not too worry, there's another six new restaurants to try this month.

My write ups have become mostly negative and I don't want to come across as the picky bitchy food blogger. I will still write but please don't mistake my infrequence with laziness or disinterest. I'm just a little disheartened.

Thank you for continuing to read and for always supporting me and my passion.

Friday, January 18, 2013

2013: the year of the ramen

With tacos being so last year, the new focus is on ramen; Japan's beloved noodle soup. The craze has hit North America big time and everyone's obsessed. I'll admit to already being sick of the hype but hey, if you can't beat 'em, join 'em.

Kingyo Izakaya, 51B Winchester Street

After dining on unbelievably light and crispy tempura battered prawns, a super fun beef tongue that's self cooked on a hot rock and beautifully composed hamachi tartar, I ordered a bowl of ramen. It's not their focus and they only offer one kind but this bowl is spot on. The broth is lighter than the traditional shoyu (I prefer it this way).

Kinton Ramen, 51 Baldwin Street

After a recent trip to Thailand, we fully employ pork noodle soups for breakfast. We brunched here yesterday and nothing is more soothing than a big bowl of steaming pork belly and chewy noodles. An oozing soft cooked egg never hurt anyone either. They almost just do ramen and they are doing it really well. I had the shio style; a light broth made from dried seaweed, sea salt and seafood.